Humanities Section > Philosophy & Rhetoric General Discussion

The moral compasses of atheists and believers

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GSOgymrat:
Interesting study. Speaking only for myself, I know that I don't consider respect for authority, ingroup loyalty, and sanctity as important as most people. I also tend to be a consequentialist and want to consider different situations on a case-by-case basis.

Atheists and believers both have moral compasses, but with key differences

... Analysis of the results suggests that theists are more inclined than atheists to endorse moral values that promote group cohesion. Meanwhile, atheists are more likely to judge the morality of an action based on its consequences. However, atheists and theists appear to align on moral values related to protecting vulnerable individuals, liberty versus oppression, and being epistemically rational, i.e.: believing in claims when they are evidence-based and being skeptical about claims not backed by evidence.

The survey results also provided clues as to why atheists' and theists' moral compasses may be calibrated differently: the distinctions may stem in part from theists' increased exposure to community engagement in belief-based behaviors that would be costly if the beliefs were false (such as attending religious meetings). Differences in cognitive style and levels of perceived existential threat may also contribute. Future studies could further explore these potential causal relationships.

These findings suggest that the widespread idea that atheists are immoral may arise in part from their weak endorsement of moral values that promote group cohesion and their consequence-based, case-by-case moral judgment of actions.

Ståhl adds: "The most general take-home message from these studies is that people who do not believe in God do have a moral compass. In fact, they share many of the same moral concerns that religious believers have, such as concerns about fairness, and about protecting vulnerable individuals from harm. However, disbelievers are less inclined than believers to endorse moral values that serve group cohesion, such as having respect for authorities, ingroup loyalty, and sanctity... It is possible that the negative stereotype of atheists as immoral may stem in part from the fact that they are less inclined than religious people to view respect for authority, ingroup loyalty, and sanctity as relevant for morality, and they are more likely to make moral judgments about harm on a consequentialist, case by case basis."

Mike Cl:

--- Quote from: GSOgymrat on February 25, 2021, 10:29:23 AM ---Interesting study. Speaking only for myself, I know that I don't consider respect for authority, ingroup loyalty, and sanctity as important as most people. I also tend to be a consequentialist and want to consider different situations on a case-by-case basis.

Atheists and believers both have moral compasses, but with key differences

... Analysis of the results suggests that theists are more inclined than atheists to endorse moral values that promote group cohesion. Meanwhile, atheists are more likely to judge the morality of an action based on its consequences. However, atheists and theists appear to align on moral values related to protecting vulnerable individuals, liberty versus oppression, and being epistemically rational, i.e.: believing in claims when they are evidence-based and being skeptical about claims not backed by evidence.

The survey results also provided clues as to why atheists' and theists' moral compasses may be calibrated differently: the distinctions may stem in part from theists' increased exposure to community engagement in belief-based behaviors that would be costly if the beliefs were false (such as attending religious meetings). Differences in cognitive style and levels of perceived existential threat may also contribute. Future studies could further explore these potential causal relationships.

These findings suggest that the widespread idea that atheists are immoral may arise in part from their weak endorsement of moral values that promote group cohesion and their consequence-based, case-by-case moral judgment of actions.

Ståhl adds: "The most general take-home message from these studies is that people who do not believe in God do have a moral compass. In fact, they share many of the same moral concerns that religious believers have, such as concerns about fairness, and about protecting vulnerable individuals from harm. However, disbelievers are less inclined than believers to endorse moral values that serve group cohesion, such as having respect for authorities, ingroup loyalty, and sanctity... It is possible that the negative stereotype of atheists as immoral may stem in part from the fact that they are less inclined than religious people to view respect for authority, ingroup loyalty, and sanctity as relevant for morality, and they are more likely to make moral judgments about harm on a consequentialist, case by case basis."

--- End quote ---
I tend to disagree with studies like this.  One important factor for me is to clearly define what a 'moral' is.  I didn't see that in this article--too much is assumed.  Take this statement: " However, atheists and theists appear to align on moral values related to protecting vulnerable individuals, liberty versus oppression, and being epistemically rational, i.e.: believing in claims when they are evidence-based and being skeptical about claims not backed by evidence."  I would like somebody to point me toward any theist that bases any of their beliefs on evidence-based claims; or being skeptical about much of anything.  Theists claims of morality and beliefs is actually based upon fear, not reasoning. 

Personally, I view theists as being mostly sheeple and will simply give one the herd view, not a reasoned view of the world.  Their morality is based upon fear--don't do such-and-such or you will go to hell, type of belief.  Look at the labels they apply to their views--Lord, King, Prince, Christ--all terms that demonstrate they are really into dictatorships and doing what 'authority' tells them to do (which is made up to suit whatever leader they are under).  Atheists are not cookie-cutter in their thinking.  But all are much more skeptical than theists.

aitm:
In general I agree with the findings. But the reason for less than enthusiastic respect for authorities, in group loyalty is because they chose to be atheist. Not exactly a “let’s have a group hug” with those who actively denigrate you or attack you simply due to your lack of faith. So it’s a kind of a “Gee! Ya think?” No doubt we share many moral “absolutes” but can’t respect those who choose to attack others for reason we do not find immoral. Gays, immigrants etc... so yeah.
If we had a 700 page checklist of things we find moral vs immoral no doubt we would have many in common and “we” would have less immoral ones than they would...but of course they would follow all their Immoral checks with 5 exclamations.

GSOgymrat:

--- Quote from: Mike Cl on February 25, 2021, 11:47:38 AM ---I tend to disagree with studies like this.  One important factor for me is to clearly define what a 'moral' is.  I didn't see that in this article--too much is assumed.  Take this statement: " However, atheists and theists appear to align on moral values related to protecting vulnerable individuals, liberty versus oppression, and being epistemically rational, i.e.: believing in claims when they are evidence-based and being skeptical about claims not backed by evidence."  I would like somebody to point me toward any theist that bases any of their beliefs on evidence-based claims; or being skeptical about much of anything.  Theists claims of morality and beliefs is actually based upon fear, not reasoning. 

Personally, I view theists as being mostly sheeple and will simply give one the herd view, not a reasoned view of the world.  Their morality is based upon fear--don't do such-and-such or you will go to hell, type of belief.  Look at the labels they apply to their views--Lord, King, Prince, Christ--all terms that demonstrate they are really into dictatorships and doing what 'authority' tells them to do (which is made up to suit whatever leader they are under).  Atheists are not cookie-cutter in their thinking.  But all are much more skeptical than theists.

--- End quote ---

This study was done by survey, meaning people are self-reporting whether they make decisions on evidence-based claims, not whether they actually do so. What is interesting, to me anyway, is how atheists and believers differ in their self-reports. For example, the study indicates that believers tend to endorse values that reinforce group cohesion and you respond by stating that believers are "sheeple", indicating that you believe putting the harmony of the group before the belief of the individual isn't desirable. To be an atheist in a predominately religious culture requires a degree of resistance to authority and denial of the sacred, otherwise how can one stand up publicly and say Christianity, Islam or other religions are lies.

Mike Cl:

--- Quote from: GSOgymrat on February 25, 2021, 01:15:54 PM ---This study was done by survey, meaning people are self-reporting whether they make decisions on evidence-based claims, not whether they actually do so. What is interesting, to me anyway, is how atheists and believers differ in their self-reports. For example, the study indicates that believers tend to endorse values that reinforce group cohesion and you respond by stating that believers are "sheeple", indicating that you believe putting the harmony of the group before the belief of the individual isn't desirable. To be an atheist in a predominately religious culture requires a degree of resistance to authority and denial of the sacred, otherwise how can one stand up publicly and say Christianity, Islam or other religions are lies.

--- End quote ---
Putting the harmony of the group before belief of the individual---too often, that is simply us vs them.  Like just about everything, it depends upon how one looks at something.  Going along with the group belief that there are mud people and therefore, they are subhuman is not a good thing even though the harmony of the group is maintained.  But wearing a mask because it is good for the group harmony is a good thing.  When theists speak of 'morals' they are actually thinking of absolute morality.  Absolute morality does not exist, at least not in my view.

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